Image used by permission of Darrin Bell, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. The death of Trayvon Martin was one of driving motivations behind his amazing work.
Despite our liberal reputation, CA leads the nation in police-involved killings at a rate 37% higher than the national average, due to extremely loose regulations on when police can use lethal force. Between 2005 and 2016, our police officers killed over 1,200 people. In 2017, they killed 162 people, half of whom did not have guns. A recent LAPD report found that one in three instances of use of force by its officers involved someone with mental illness. Shootings also disproportionately impact communities of color, as CA police kill unarmed young black and Latino men at significantly higher rates than they do white men.
This action is actually the tale of two competing CA bills –
- AB-392 “Peace officers: deadly force“, backed by the ACLU, civil-liberties groups, labor unions, and families, CHANGES the standards about when police are allowed to use deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary“. (APPROVE!)
- SB-230“Law enforcement: use of deadly force” backed by police unions and management, concentrates on improving internal department policies and training, all of which they could do without creating this unnecessary law. (OPPOSE)
Here’s a clip from a officer training video from Kern County in 2006. Although Sheriff Youngblood stated his words were taken out of context, it’s not surprising that Kern County is currently the leader in officer-involved killings. (Sheriff Youngblood retained his seat.)
SB-230“Law enforcement” is on the 4/23 agenda in the Senate Committee on Public Safety, (Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is a member, along with Sen. Nancy Skinner (Chair), Sen. Moorlach (Vice Chair), Sen. Bradford, Sen. Mitchell, Sen. Morrell, and Sen. Wiener.)
They’ll be meeting at 9:30 Tuesday, so get your calls in on Monday! (If you’re not sure who your senator is, check here.) (AB-392 has been re-referred to the Rules Committee and isn’t on the agenda yet.)
Minimal script for committee members: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to vote “NO“ on SB-230“Law enforcement: use of deadly force”. This bill just maintains California’s terrible record of police shootings. It is no substitute for AB-392, a commonsense standard that recognizes the value of preserving human life.
Minimal script for non-committee state senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to encourage members of the Public Safety Committee to vote “NO“ on SB-230“Law enforcement: use of deadly force”.
Additional talking points
“American political ideals require careful consideration of how government exercises power over its people. Vigilance is especially necessary in policing where, on a daily basis, democratic notions of liberty, security and autonomy are poised against the demands of public safety and the force that may be required to effect it. Because the power to use force is granted by the governed, every effort must be made to ensure that force is exercised with careful attention to preserving the life and dignity of the individual to remain legitimate.”
– It is currently legal for a CA police officer to shoot and kill someone, even if other alternatives are available and even if the killing wasn’t necessary to keep officers or the public safe. Officers are rarely held accountable because current law allows police to use deadly force whenever an “objectively reasonable” officer would have done so under the same circumstances, and courts have said that police don’t have to use the least amount of force possible for their conduct to be “reasonable.”
– Two major law enforcement groups, the Police Executive Research Forum and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, have released model policy guidelines that call for higher standards than just reasonableness, including de-escalation and holding officers accountable for creating circumstances that justify deadly force.
– San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago have already adopted similar use of force policies under the guidance of the U.S Department of Justice. Data shows that these policies work. Departments with tighter limits on when police can use force kill fewer people. At the same time, those departments see, on average, lower rates of officer assaults and similar crime rates to departments with looser standards. Reducing police deadly force helps everyone’s safety.
– AB 392, otherwise known as “The California Act to Save Lives”, addresses systemic change. SB 230 is a do-little defense of the old ways that have made CA number #1 in police-involved killings.
– SB 230 requires all agencies to maintain use of force policies. However, every agency in California already does this.
– SB 230 doesn’t establish further requirements for the policies, other than providing “guidelines” on a list of topics, with no further specificity or clearer guidance.
– SB 230 would authorize agencies to issue policies that are in direct conflict with the recommendations of the California Attorney General, which emphasized clarity and specificity on use of force policies – explicitly criticizing the type of vague guidance that would be permitted under SB 230.
– SB 230 similarly provides toothless training guidelines with no requirements, beyond a short list of subjects to be given “adequate consideration.” Beyond the subject, there is no specificity on what standard officers should be trained to.
– SB 230 makes changes to Penal Code § 196 that allow officers to kill people who pose no threat to other people. It also allows officers to use deadly force even when it would have been safe, feasible, and reasonable to use alternatives.
– SB 230 fails to include any best practices, directly contradicts the recommendations of our Attorney General, and authorizes officers to kill people when there was no need to do so.
– AB 392 changes the use of deadly force standard from the current vague standard that officers can shoot whenever “reasonable,” to a necessary standard that requires officers avoid using deadly force unless “necessary,” where there are no reasonable alternatives. SB 230, even as amended, does not.
– SB 230 would allow officers to shoot fleeing suspects in the back who are suspected of only minor crimes and pose no imminent threat. AB 392 would not.
– AB 392 clarifies that an officer will be evaluated for conduct that leads up to a shooting, and held accountable for causing the need for a shooting. SB 230 does not.
– Bottom line: SB 230 is counterproductive – these amendments demonstrate that establishing a minimum statewide use of force standard is necessary and we must continue to work toward real reform via AB 392